The inventor of the wheel is long lost to time, but Craig Donnelly sends his thanks anyway.

Mr. Donnelly, who runs the American operation for the German wheel maker BBS, is driven by wheels: cast alloy, magnesium, forged aluminum, painted silver or black or titanium, large enough to fill a wheel well on a Ford truck or dainty enough to fit a decades-old MG sports car.

BBS is one of several companies that cover both sides of the automotive wheel world: making flashy stock wheels built specifically for carmakers, as well as aftermarket replacements for car owners who are seeking better performance or more personality. And the buyers are not necessarily the hot-rodders and street racers you would expect.

“Over all, wheel design and colors options and styling is more in line with where the market is nowadays,” Mr. Donnelly said.

For many drivers, the spinning metal on our cars is a nonissue, usually worthy of attention only if it bends, or cracks, or breaks. Tires require more attention, with pressure warning lights and all the hazards that may illuminate them. Considering the abuses they suffer, tires are generally reliable on-the-road companions. But they are usually a sooty black, and often aren’t much to look at.